Special Features

Millennial Parents Dani Barretto And Xavi Panlilio On Growing Up And Moving Out

In their first ever feature as a family, Dani Barretto and Xavi Panlilio share their insights on parenthood, being newlyweds (ish) and moving into their own home 

It was a quiet weekday morning at the Barretto-Panlilio household — Dani was getting photographed, Xavi had just finished getting ready and patiently waited for us to finish Dani’s first layout so he could make his coffee. And little miss Millie was upstairs giggling while playing with her yaya. The Dani Barretto we saw that day was different — she has definitely matured, and despite all the multitasking, was surprisingly relaxed. 

Dani, what have you been up to since you guys got married?

Xavi and I have been married for almost two years now, and have been parents to Millie for a little over a year. We finally just moved into this new home around six months ago because the pandemic caused so many delays. So, it’s been pretty busy.

Oh wow! So, come to think of it, it really does seem like you’ve been playing “house” throughout the quarantine. 

Yes, pretty much. Between getting the house ready, packing up our stuff from the old place and taking care of a baby, it has been a pretty good distraction from the pandemic and our quarantine life. It’s one of the perks of having just moved in — we really enjoy staying home.

So Dani, judging by your Instagram feed, we can really feel the shift of the content you create—from being a single girl to being married, then being a mom. How has this journey been like for you thus far?

Honestly, I knew that I always wanted to be a mom. I am the eldest of five siblings and I am so close to all of them. I formed a special bond with my youngest sister, Erich — being that I am the eldest and she is the youngest. I was her second mom, always so protective and doting.

Ever since I moved out of the house, I make a conscious effort to stay in touch with her and to let her know that I will love her and be there for her no matter what. Thanks to Erich, Leon, Claudia and Julia, being a mom came to me so naturally because of all the years of practice and experience.

Of course, parenting my own child is a lot more intense, that’s why I am so grateful for Xavi for helping me out and for taking his role as a dad to Millie so seriously. 

Before we get into married life, Xavi, can you tell us about your love story.

Well, we didn’t start out as friends, that’s for sure. We didn’t even know each other or anything about one another prior to the first time we met. So it all started four years ago. We went to La Union with our respective group of friends and then we were introduced to each other. So I guess there was already some kind of chemistry there, but nothing crazy. It was more of wanting to get to know her more and I was hoping vice versa.

So later that night, I decided to message her on Instagram to see if she wanted to hang out again the following day. After I hit send, I felt kinda ridiculous because she has hundreds of thousands of followers so my message would most likely just get buried along with all the other message requests. I intended to delete it, but fell asleep.

When I woke up the next morning, the first thing I saw on my phone was her message reply, and she said she yes. So, ever since that day, we have been inseparable. It’s actually serendipitous if you think about it because had I deleted that message, she never would have seen it, and we both would have just gone our separate ways. 

How is your adjustment to married life? And from married life to parenthood?

In terms of married life, it’s the same as our dating life, but different — if that makes sense at all. It’s the same in the sense that we still have fun with each other, we talk about everything, we are together everyday especially now that we are in quarantine, but now, there’s just more responsibility for one another because of the commitment we made.

And as far as being parents, it’s something we take very seriously. We both come from big families, we both have four siblings each, so we really have a handle on what it’s like. We know what we loved about our childhood and what we disliked growing up, so as much as possible, we learn from those experiences. Being parents to Millie is a huge responsibility but she has really added so much happiness to our lives, and that of our families because she is the first and only grandchild on both sides. She is so loved and we are so thankful for that. And as far as time, we spend time with both sides as equally as we can. So far, so good.

Let’s talk about parenting styles. Who is the “good cop” and who is the “bad cop?”

Xavi: I am definitely the bad cop. I know it’s weird because usually daughters are daddies’ girls. I actually had to assume the role because she is so spoiled to Dani. It’s crazy.

Dani: That’s true. She is stuck to me forever and I can never get mad at her. I guess my maternal instincts are so strong and she can sense it, but I also can’t help it. 

You know this dynamic can all change as she gets older, right? Especially when you have more kids. Speaking of which, do you have plans of having more kids?

Definitely, but not right away. Millie is only a year old so we want to enjoy her first, let her relish being the only child and grandchild for now. But later on, we would like to have one more. No more than three kids for sure. Three is our max.

You guys are the epitome of “modern parents.” You are Millennials with a Generation Alpha kid — parenting in not just the digital age, but in this “new normal.” What advice do you have for other young couples out there about relationships and being first time parents?

Xavi: Well as far as relationships, what I can share from experience is to be up front with your partner. Even during the dating phase, be honest about your plans — if you want to get married or not, if you want to have kids or not, and other stuff that matters do you. This is the only way to know if you and your partner are compatible or have things in common. Usually people shy away from these topics, and they figure it out when it’s too late. But to me and to Dani, it was important to both of us, so we talked about all of this earlier. If our morals, beliefs and plans are not aligned, then we really don’t have a future together. Just lay your cards on the table and you can’t go wrong.

Dani: And guys, communication is key. Always discuss things with your partner because it’s the only way for you to understand one another. Things are not always what it seems.

As for parenthood, it is definitely not the same as being a second mom to my siblings. And it doesn’t come with a manual either. A lot of it is trial and error, persistence, patience and having a support system. As first time parents, we honestly don’t have time to research things as they happen. When we run into issues, we use our better judgment, and if that doesn’t work, we ask each other for help, and if that still doesn’t work, we call for help. Millie is thriving and she is a very independent toddler who knows what she wants. We want to cultivate her individuality so we plan to send her to a Montessori school once kids can attend school again.

Xavi: Yes, that’s important to us — to raise her with a sense of independence, taking cues from her strengths and interests as she grows older. And of course learning to deal with the downside of life because it can be messy and ugly at times. 

So Dani, what can we look forward to from you guys in the near future?

We had a Podcast that we are in the process revamping. It’s about being married or being in a relationship. I also want to do more cooking vlogs — easy dishes for young moms who don’t have a lot of time or a big kitchen. And maybe something with Millie when she is older. 

This young and dynamic family is such a joy to be around. They’re easy going, easy to talk to and very honest. And being new to almost everything — married life, parenthood and running their own household, it can be challenging and quite overwhelming. But with a partnership like Xavi and Dani’s, there is no doubt they will pass with flying colors — all while having fun!

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